There is something about giant monster movies that trumpet spectacle. If superhero movies attract audiences with their action and heroism, the monster flick pours on mass amounts of destruction. What Godzilla: King of the Monsters attempts to do is add some of the tailored heroism that a Marvel movie gives you, by pitting the King of Kaiju against an army of Titans. The result, you would hope, would be a movie full of giant monsters fighting and laying waste to cities while humans try desperately to get out of the way. King of the Monsters is, in a way, exactly this. The fights are intense, the visual effects are stunning, and multiple cities around the world get utterly flattened. But there is one problem: the people crowd the screen entirely too much.
Some of this surely comes from the incredibly star studded cast that this film boasts. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Super 8), Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Bates Motel), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Kent Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Inception), Bradley Whitford (Get Out, The West Wing), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, The Imitation Game), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, The Final Girls), Aisha Hinds (Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Next Three Days), Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and David Strathairn (Bourne Ultimatum, Lincoln) all have roles.
The issue isn’t the actors not executing their lines, as almost every scene focused on people is well acted. Charles Dance could literally read the dictionary to me and I would feel my life was in danger. Kyle Chandler knows how to motivate his team. And who could complain about Millie Bobby Brown? She is absolutely electric. But folks, the movie is called Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I don’t want to care about people. I want to know why Godzilla is “King of the Monsters.”
This movie is the third installment in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, a collaboration with Warner Bros. The first film, Gareth Edwards’Godzilla (2014) and second, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island (2017), have grossed a cool $1 billion worldwide. When looked at through the lens of an overarching universe, Godzilla: King of the Monsters feels like a fitting act in the set up of the coming conflict between Godzilla and King Kong. In fact, that film has already been announced for next year.
In this film, Monarch, the organization that has tracked down and isolated more than a dozen Titans, is attacked by an eco-terrorist group who looks to set the Titans loose on the world. They think that the creatures are part of the natural order, and that they are essential to restoring that order to the way it should be. Quickly things pivot from the set-up appetizer to the meat and potatoes main course. Titans are waking up, Godzilla is hunting an interloper attempting to take the Alpha spot, chaos ensues.
Because these Titans are scattered all over the world, the movie takes us to numerous locales. China, Antarctica, Mexico, and Boston are all featured, but it is made clear that the entire world is in crisis. This diversity of locale adds to Godzilla’s visual aesthetic nicely but it does little for the story. There is just too much moving around. In a 131 minute movie, only after an hour and a half does it decide to settle down and just let Godzilla knuckle down and brawl it out.
It is hard to be disappointed with a Godzilla film that pits the eponymous iguanid against King Ghidorah, and the film also features appearances from Mothra, Rodan, and numerous others. It’s not hard to turn off your brain and fill your belly with the platters of explosions, atomic breath, falling skyscrapers, and brawling monolithic monsters. The only real problem is that there just isn’t enough of that. 2014’s Godzillasuffered from a similar issue, but King of the Monsters benefits from the sole fact that it is supported by more than Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Age of Ultron), and Elizabeth Olsen (Age of Ultron, Silent House). The human element of this film is better than the previous Godzilla, but it still takes up too much screen time. I want something more like 2016’s Shin Godzilla. Monsters, monsters, monsters.
Fans of Godzilla will need to see this move. Fans of the summer blockbuster need to see this movie. Fans of destruction, chaos, and kaiju need to see this movie. The spectacle alone is worth the admission. I seriously doubt a home theater will be able to pull off the scale this monster mash brings to the table. Just, understand that the human characters are going to linger a little longer that you might want.And do yourself a favor and linger a little after the credits; interesting things transpire. | Caleb Sawyer